Document Type

Migration Policy Series

Publication Date



Informal cross-border trading in Zimbabwe has become more than a survivalist strategy and should be seen as an important pillar of the country's economy. This report, part of SAMP’s Growing Informal Cities series, seeks to provide a current picture of informal cross-border trading in Zimbabwe and provides detailed insights into the activities of traders from the capital, Harare, who travel regularly to Johannesburg, South Africa, as part of their business. The traders make a monthly profit that far exceeds the salaries of most Zimbabweans in formal employment. Furthermore, many traders have been able to grow their businesses to such an extent that they hire people from outside their families. In Zimbabwe, this trade remains a female-dominated activity and traders are generally well educated and relatively young. Almost all respondents interviewed had started their businesses in the post-2000 era. Most had never held a formal job and went into informal cross-border trading either because they were unemployed or already involved in informal sector activities in Zimbabwe. This report notes important contributions these traders make to both the Zimbabwean and South African economies. The contribution of the informal economy in generating jobs and reducing unemployment needs to be acknowledged in Zimbabwe by policies that encourage rather than restrict the operation of informal trade.